The Making of Iris

Festival Manager Grant Vidgen looks back at his role in bringing Iris and the Iris Productions to life
I guess if there was a role I had in establishing Iris, it would be best described as that of midwife.  But although there was no infant child to bring into the world from the womb of an expectant parent, there was lots of hand-holding, tea making and  brow mopping going on as domestic goddess (really?) Berwyn hatched plans, with his business partner James and designers Kara and Simon, around our garden table in the summer of 2006. Iris has certainly come of age in the years since then. As we’re looking forward to the 2020 festival and discussing the merits of various streaming platforms and online hangouts, I’ve been looking back on the eleven films we’ve had the privilege of making so far with winners of the Iris Prize. It’s been great that we’ve been able to share three of them during this period of lockdown with audiences around the world.
A late night on the set of Burger, filmed at a takeaway in Cardiff
I’d got involved in content production by accident. Back in the late 1980s after graduating from the College of Librarianship Wales and setting up home with Berwyn, I was “helping out” with print traffic for the Aberystwyth (later Welsh International) Film Festival.  In those days you got a good workout moving cases of 35mm prints from cinema to store and back to the cinema.  You also got familiar with IATA airport codes and customs forms – two things which still get me excited to this day (and which, with Brexit potentially putting an end of free movement of goods in and out the UK, may yet come in handy.) Anyway, one thing led to another and booking couriers to transport film prints for the festival morphed into production managing a feature length drama four years later. Never one for a straightforward career development path, when we embarked on the production of Colonial Gods with Dee Rees after her success at the first Iris Prize LGBT+ Film Festival, I’d been out of the industry for three or four years. So getting hands on with drama production again was definitely a fun-filled time.  What I’ve realised though, over the following ten shorts, is that every project will have its mad moments.  No matter how much you’ve planned, prepared and risk-assessed, something unexpected will come along. Whether it’s losing a gaffer, or having to look after a lobster, or avoiding the unwanted attention of drunk students, every single project will be a fantastic learning experience.
Safely inside a studio on the set of A Beautiful Form to See
And I think that’s why we are looking forward to taking the twelfth film into production, when we’re able to get back behind a camera, and bringing another story to the screen. Later this year we’ll get to share the film Lara Zeidan made with her prize with the Iris Prize audience.  A Beautiful Form To See, with Alicia Agneson, is a hypnotising celebration of the female gaze.  It was the first Iris winners’ production to be shot in a studio and the first where we weren’t concerned by the Welsh weather. But the tale about the unexpected lesson of that shoot is one for another day!